Gator nation remembers superfan Stumpy Harris

Stumpy Harris and son Routledge in 2017.
Stumpy Harris and son Routledge in 2017.
Photo courtesy Ruth Harris

Last fall UF alumnus Stumpy Harris donated two classic cars to Gator Boosters for auction.

“If you’re a car enthusiast, and ALL FOR THE #GATORS, this is a great opportunity!” Gator Boosters tweeted.

The 1932 Ford and 1952 MG—both decked out in blue and orange with gator heads mounted on the back—each sold for more than $25,000, with the proceeds going to benefit Gator athletics.

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It might seem like the kind of gift that would define a donor, but for Stumpy Harris, it was only the latest in a long line of generous gifts to UF’s athletic program. That generosity—born out of deep devotion to the Gators—is how friends are remembering Harris after his death at age 82 earlier this month.

“When we needed help, he was there for us,” said Phil Pharr, president of Gator Boosters since 1981.

Harris was a former president of Gator Boosters and had obtained “Legacy Director” status—earned by those who have given at least $3 million to Gator athletics. Pharr said only about 15 others are in the club: “It’s a very elite, small group of people.”

Gordon “Stumpy” Harris was raised in Jacksonville and graduated from UF in 1961. After a brief stint as a teacher, he entered the UF College of Law and graduated third in his class of 1965.

In 1970 Harris was a founding parter of what is now GrayRobinson, a major Orlando law firm, and developed expertise in the field of eminent domain.

“He was by far the largest income generator for the firm,” said Orlando attorney Frank Hamner, a UF College of Law graduate who worked with Harris at the time. “There’s probably no one in the Southeast who was more skilled and artful in the practice of eminent domain than Stumpy Harris.”

Stumpy Harris

In 2003, Harris left to form his own firm with his son, Bruce Harris, specializing in eminent domain and civil trial law.

Hamner said Harris sought to excel in everything he did, citing his active support of Shriners Hospitals for Children and his commitment to his kids, including a son he had late in life.

“He never missed a practice, never missed a game,” Hamner said. “He really, at 80-something years old, gave more attention to being a father than any father you will ever find.”

Through it all, Harris never lost his love for the Gators. Among his many associations with his alma mater, he was a former president of the UF National Alumni Association, a member of the UF Hall of Fame and a football season ticket holder for more than 60 years.

“He said, ‘If I expect my team to be a national champion, I’m going to be a national champion fan,’” Hamner recounted. “Rain or shine, he was a Gator fan from the time he graduated from law school till the day he died. He was there when they were good, and he was there when they were bad.”

Harris’ fandom extended to the cars he drove and the clothes he wore—including national title rings he received along with the football team.

“If you went into his office, he had a literal alligator skin chair and alligator statues,” Pharr said. “Whether he was in a suit in court or not, you knew he was a Gator.”

Harris is survived by his wife Ruth, children Routledge, Bruce and Sarah, and nine grandchildren.

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